[Advaita-l] BhAvarUpa ajnAna/avidya Part 6 (6) Concluded
anandhudli at hotmail.com
Sun Mar 21 10:47:04 CDT 2010
Thanks for the informative series on bhAvarUpa ajnAna.
As ChitsukhAchArya says, "अनादित्वे सति भावरूपं विज्ञाननिरस्यं अज्ञानमिति", while 1) having no
beginning (anAdi), that which is of a 2) positive nature,bhAvarUpa, (not merely absence
of something else) and which is 3) dispelled by knowledge (vijnAnanirasya) is called ajnAna.
He also makes it amply clear that this bhAva rUpa ajnAna should not be confused to be
really existing. To be precise, it is anirvachanIyA, ie. cannot be categorized as existent
or nonexistent. However, in practice, as a courtesy (upachArAt), it is spoken as
bhavarUpa, to distinguish it clearly from purely nonexistent entities such as a hare's horn.
भावावविलक्षणस्य अज्ञानस्य अभावविलक्षणत्वमात्रेण भावत्वोपचारात्
Now, a question arises regarding mUlAvidyA. mUlAvidyA is the cause of adhyAsa or
superimposition of the non-Self on the Self, or the incorrect understanding of the Self.
However, we are aware of other kinds of illusions in the world.
For example, seeing a rope as a snake means the snake is superimposed on the rope.
Another example is the erroneous perception of silver in nacre. Is mUlAvidyA the
cause of such "ordinary" illusions? If so, then to remove these simple illusions, we
will need BrahmajnAna and nothing less. But by experience, we know that these illusions
do not require BrahmajnAna to be removed. The illusory snake disappears when we see
the rope as it is. And the illusory silver disappears upon seeing the nacre as it is. No
BrahmajnAna is involved. So what kind of avidyA or ajnAna causes these illusions?
The advaita texts anticipate these questions and have answered them well. For example,
the panchapAdika vivaraNa says:
मूलाज्ञानस्यैव अवस्थाभेदाः रजताद्युपादानानि शुक्तिकादिज्ञानैः सहाध्यासेन निवर्तन्त इति कल्प्यताम् ।
The material causes (upAdAnAni) of the illusory silver, etc. may be considered to be
modes (or states, avasthA's) of the mUlAvidyA. These avasthA-ajnAnas are sublated
by knowledge of nacre, etc. (ie. the substratum of the illusion) along with the
The mUlAvidyA, also called primal ignorance, has many avasthAs or modes. A mode
correspond to the avasthA-ajnAna or modal ignorance. The avasthA-ajnAna is also
called tUlAjnAna or tUlAvidyA to distinguish it from mUlAvidyA. The tUlAvidyA is the
material cause of ordinary illusory appearances such as snake-rope or silver-nacre.
The tUlAvidyA is dispelled by the knowledge of the respective substratum - rope, nacre,
etc. and it disappears along with the adhyAsa.
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